Thursday, May 29, 2008

A shaggy dog story

"Through Wolf's Eyes", by Jane Lindskold, would have been a chunky great doorstop of a novel, had it not been another of Tor's free ebooks that I read on my phone. It's your average girl-raised-by-wolves-goes-on-to-great-things-in-fantasy-land-by-using-her-wolfish-ways-and-her-straight-talking-to-the-nobles story.

Firekeeper, the wolf-girl, is well-written, as are most of the characters. She's believable, once you accept that wolves wouldn't just eat her. The world they live in is a slightly different take on standard mediaeval fantasyland, but only slightly. It's still kings and queens and castles and nobles and commoners, but this time women get to be knights and they worship their ancestors instead of dodgy gods. That's about all the differences.

The plot is pretty good, concerning itself with aging King Tedric's choice of an heir. His own children having died in nasty ways, he is forced to select an heir from a wide variety of nobles and their children. Cue lengthy infodumps on family history and lines of succession. These were pretty tedious and I skipped them whenever I could, and it didn't affect my understanding of what was going on. The book comes with a family tree diagram and a glossary of characters, detailing their siblings and line of descendancy from Queen Thingy the First. I don't want to invest that much time in these people, they are essentially background. If the book were trimmed of these sections, which add very little except weight, it would be lot more gripping.

All in all, a diverting if not spectacular read. Ho hum.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

more work benefits

more work benefits
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

sensis is such a large company that they have a budget for marketing stuff internally. to celebrate an upgrade to the trading post site, they are giving us lamingtons today.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Leopard + Samba = Group Hug + Reacharound

Previously on File Sharing Farces, I had upgraded to Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, royally buggering my networked hard drive that used Samba for file sharing. I tried a workaround by installing MacFUSE and setting up an FTP file system. This worked ok, except it would keep dropping out and iTunes didn't play nicely with it (complaining that the original music files could not be found, and it wouldn't let me sync my ipod or add new music).

After a bit of intense googling I found this forum thread about the many different guises my LanServer NAS goes under (Hotway LanDrive, NAS900, etc). On the last page (27), there was a link to a firmware upgrade from one of the other manufacturers that use the same chipset. This claimed to support Mac OS 10.5. I gave it a go, fully expecting it to turn my NAS into an expensive shiny aluminium brick.

It seems to have worked perfectly, I can now browse the shares in Finder. My next task is to get it automounting and serving music. Hoorah!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Moffat to helm Dr Who

BBC Wales and BBC Drama has announced that Bafta and Hugo Award winning writer Steven Moffat will succeed Russell T Davies as Lead Writer and Executive Producer of the fifth series of Doctor Who, which will broadcast on BBC One in 2010.

-- BBC Dr Who News

Awesome stuff - Moffat wrote Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, and The Empty Child.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Clearing my backlog

Ok, three books that have escaped the merciless scalpel of my reviewing are below. A paragraph for each, chronological order of reading, usual stuff, usual quality of review ("it was a gud book. I liked the peepl and the wurds").

"Signal to Noise", by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, is the story of a dying film director and his final film. It's Dave McKean so the artwork is outstanding, as much a part of the narrative as Gaiman's words. This is probably the only work by Neil Gaiman I haven't thoroughly enjoyed, although that may be due to the sombre subject rather than any fault of the work. It certainly had the power to affect me emotionally in parts. Definitely an interesting book.

"The Devil in Amber", by Mark Gatiss, is another of his Lucifer Box books. This time his gentleman/painter/spy/playboy has moved on twenty years or so, but now he's embroiled in a Dennis Wheatley style occult thriller, battling demons and shagging hotel porters and the sacrificial virgins alternately. Another fun read, very entertaining.

"Mothers and Other Monsters", by Maureen McHugh, is one of Small Beer's free ebooks. It's a collection of short stories; some are science fiction, some fantasy, some magical realism, some that could fit in any genre depending on how you interpret them. As with most collections, there are some stories I loved, some which didn't do much for me and one or two I just didn't understand. Standout story for me was "The Cost to be Wise", which has an awesome ending. Small Beer are giving it away right now, so why not try it for yourself?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Black Swan Green

I have just finished the last of my stock of real books, "Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell, it's back to the ebooks again. While I have thoroughly enjoyed everything else I have read by Mitchell (Number9Dream, Ghostwritten, and especially Cloud Atlas), I was a bit wary of picking up this one. It's about a year in the life of a stammering, bullied, sensitive 13-year-old. It didn't sound too interesting -I remember 13 being a bit crap, I did not particularly want to read about someone else's crap year of being 13.

I 'm glad I did though. I should have known that nice Mr Mitchell wouldn't steer me wrong. It starts off in a slightly Diary of Adrian Mole style, but you quickly realise there's a lot more going on in this book. He lays on the 80s ephemera thick, references to Monster Munch and puffball skirts abound, and it works well dragging us unwillingly back into the horrible style vacuum that was 1983.

The plot's a good one, not terribly surprising or original, but that's not the real point - it's the journey that's important. Great writing, great characters and even a couple of references to his other books are slipped in for smug twats like me to notice. Worth a read, and I think i'd recommend it to any 13 year old - it's a shite time of life, but there's still a lot you can control if you want to.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Leopard vs. Samba = Fight!

Previously on "Gareth's Geek Hour": our hero had battled with the NetInfo Manager in Mac OS 10.3 and succeeded in getting his ibook to automount a smb share on a networked storage device. Music streamed off the little box over the network, and there was much rejoicing. Disaster struck when subversion refused to work over a samba share. Our intrepid idiothero decided an upgrade to Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) was in order, believing it to have the solution to all life's problems...

Leopard is pretty, has some great new features, and seems a little snappier than Panther on my aging ibook. One problem: it has kicked my little automounted samba shares right in their wrinkled little happy sacks. They just don't work. They seemed to have been migrated from the NetInfo database into the local directory (/var/db/dslocal), because it would still try to automount them. Except it would lock up completely and need to be turned off with the power button whenever I connected to them. This was with the 10.5.1 version straight off the install DVD.

I upgraded to 10.5.2 via the software updater. Hoorah! No more lockups. No data though, either. smbclient could view the shares. Mounting them manually meant I could see the files in the Terminal, but Finder wouldn't have any of it. Thinking maybe I should be automounting the shares the new Leopard way, I removed the mounts from the dslocal directories and replaced them with /etc/fstab entries. Still no joy - finder would complain that an error occurred (error number -43) when browsing to the shares (although the shares themselves would appear in the Finder).

After considerable footling and much gnashing, I gave up. By the power of Greyskull, my NAS thing supports FTP access in addition to SMB, so I installed MacFUSE, and the GUI MacFusion. 15 minutes of configuring later, I was in business with an automounted ftp file system (handy hint: put "-odefer_permissions" in the advanced options field if you find you're having trouble accessing the files).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

giant james blunt

giant james blunt
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

he'll destroy us all, with his giant feet!

james blunt

james blunt
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

tiny wee man

Monday, May 05, 2008

neil gaiman

neil gaiman
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

woot! Neil Gaiman reading from The Graveyard Book at the state library, Melbourne. Very funny and interesting. Unfortunately I had to get back to work so couldn't get my book signed. boo.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

hot hungarian salami

hot hungarian salami
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

I love a mouthful of hot sausage on the weekend, especially of the eastern european variety.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Woot! Look at me!

So, the nice people / cheapskates at Schmap have used one of my Creative Commons Licensed Crappy Cameraphone Pictures (TM) for their Scienceworks Museum review. Which was nice. They're doing a mashup thing, using flickr photos and google maps. Looks good.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Tor's free ebook assault has claimed its first victory: I've just finished reading "Axis", the sequel to Robert Charles Wilson's "Spin" - the first of the ebooks I read. This wouldn't have been a book I would have picked up had I not been impressed by "Spin".

Axis is set 30 years after the end of the first book, and sheds a bit more light on the nature of the Hypotheticals, the mysterious entities that hid the Earth away from the normal passage of time. Not much more, mind you, but then the point of the books is to explore how mankind would react to direct contact with something entirely unknowable. As before, the characters have a depth and authenticity that stands out. The story is definitely about the people caught up in the events, not the events themselves.

A good read. Highly recommended if you've read "Spin".